General manager Martin Mayhew has even played up the angle. As reported by Mike O'Hara from the team's official website:
“We’re not quite at that point to say a specific number,” Mayhew said at the NFL annual meeting last month. “In my view, there are not 10 elite guys.”
Yet what if the team went in the other direction? Could a trade backwards, where the Lions acquired more picks by sliding a few slots in the first round, make more sense?
Should the Lions Trade Back in the Draft?
The most immediate and obvious negative to going against the grain is that the Lions would lose out on what is presumably a higher-rated talent. At the 10-spot, players such as outside linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive tackle Aaron Donald or perhaps even wideout Mike Evans may still be in play.
Let’s say the Lions trade back five spots, striking a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers so they can move up to select Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert. In the process, the Lions acquire an extra third- and fifth-round pick in this draft along with the Steelers’ original pick at 15.
The player pool the Lions are fishing in has changed dramatically. Five more players are off the board, and some figure to be players the Lions coveted.
Instead of getting Evans or Barr, now the choices are wideout Odell Beckham Jr. or linebacker Ryan Shazier. While it’s not a precipitous fall, the ceiling and star quotient does take a hit.
Even though the Brandon Pettigrew re-signing makes it seem highly unlikely, if the team really covets North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, he too could be gone. Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com reported the rangy receiver visited the team on Monday.
If the Lions truly want Gilbert, as many national media pundits at CBS suggest they do, he’s removed from the equation. Widely presumed top safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix could be a goner too, as the Chicago Bears at No. 14 should have strong interest in the Alabama phenom.
While the Lions would still be choosing a pretty darn good prospect, there’s a reason why others are rated higher. It’s a risk to sacrifice top-end potential by giving away a higher pick.
Even with the extra picks, there's no guarantee that any of those extras will pan out. Until last season's haul of Larry Warford, Sam Martin and Devin Taylor, Mayhew's draft record in the middle rounds has not been pretty. The names of Doug Hogue, Ronnell Lewis, Amari Spievey (pictured) and Derrick Williams continue to haunt Lions fans.
In order to trade back, someone has to be willing to trade forward. One team must want a specific player enough to part with picks later on.
Let's consider the teams—and their presumed needs—that pick right after Detroit.
The Tennessee Titans pick 11th, and the New York Giants pick 12th. Both teams appear to have needs on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as in the secondary. The Giants could use a tight end or wide receiver as well.
In this draft, I identified three potential cases that could merit a trade up:
|Team||Pick||Target A||Target B|
|St. Louis Rams||13th||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Taylor Lewan|
|Dallas Cowboys||16th||Aaron Donald||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix|
|Baltimore Ravens||17th||Taylor Lewan||Justin Gilbert|
The next issue is agreeing to compensation and trade terms.
In fact, Dallas' deal to get cornerback Morris Claiborne in the 2012 draft provides a nice blueprint for compensation. In that draft, Dallas dealt the 14th and 45th overall picks to the Rams to move up to sixth overall.
In this draft, Dallas holds the 16th and 47th picks. That might require Detroit to give something back to help even out the trade, perhaps a sixth-round pick.
The Ravens make a logical trade partner too. New Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin were with the Ravens last year.
If the Lions can pull off a deal to move back a few spots, there are a few players they should target in that range.
- Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller
- LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
- Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward
- Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks
In B/R's own Matt Miller's latest mock draft, he projects those players to go 17th, 18th, 21st and 23rd respectively.
Fuller makes plenty of sense if the Lions are interested in adding yet another corner to the mix. His brother Corey was a sixth-round pick last year.
Beckham would make a great fit as the third wideout behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. As noted in the scouting report from Detroit Lions Draft,
Beckham is a speedy, productive receiver with very good hands. Watching him catch throws with awkward ball placement is really impressive, and he’s got a lot of experience making tough catches. He’s outstanding at transitioning quickly from receiver to runner, and his elusiveness and speed absolutely translate to the next level.
Of course, with those extra picks the Lions would have more ammunition to move back up again, too. Securing another second-round pick would afford Mayhew the opportunity to move back into the bottom of the first round as he did in selecting Jahvid Best in 2010.
That could ensure they get someone like BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy or Fresno State wideout Davante Adams. Those are players who should interest the Lions but who might not last until the 45th overall pick, where the Lions currently sit in the second round.
All transaction and draft info is courtesy of NFL.com. You can send your own trade scenarios to Jeff on Twitter @JeffRisdon.